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    Mindful to the Quarter-inch Paid Member

    Mid-afternoon, twenty-four hours into a three-day vipassana retreat, I entered the teacher's cottage for my interview. Although I had attended many meditation retreats with lay teachers, this was my first interview with an Asian monk. Hesitant, bowing, unsure of etiquette, I walked in, sat on the floor, and waited for him to speak. He waited for me to speak. Noting awkwardness. "How's your practice?" he asked finally, quietly, smiling. "I am experiencing much boredom, sir. The hour-long sits seem to be taking three hours." "Yes," he smiled. "I think perhaps you are not in the present moment. You are wondering always, 'How soon will this be over?' Thinking ahead." “Yes, that is what I am doing." More »
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    Samsara Squared Paid Member

    I gaze up at a galaxy of cartoon stars. Turning my head to the right I see five checkerboard platforms linked by staircases and studded with simple geometric pillars and arches. Pressing a button on my hand control, I "fly" toward this gameboardlike space station, zooming closer and closer until I'm "walking" on an upper platform. Human and inhuman enemies are hiding. Darting around, weightless, in a bare, bright, mechanically uniform world, I try to steady the cartoon gun extended in the cartoon hand before me. The scene shifts with my gaze, though there's a tiny perceptual lag that makes me feel like I'm trying to focus underwater. A geometrically muscular cartoon man in blue pants appears. I squeeze the trigger on my hand control. Rocket grenades fall in slow white arcs. More »
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    After Patriarchy Paid Member

    Buddhism after patriarchy calls for a radical reassessment of the relationship between spirituality and so-called "everyday life." Like many other male-dominated religions, Buddhism has often demonstrated little interest in "ordinary" life, at least the ordinary life of the householder. Now maintaining one's livelihood and taking care of one's environment and family need to be accepted as an alternative that is not inferior to monasticism. The tasks of the householder must come to be seen as arenas in which mindfulness and detachment can be practiced. Furthermore, householder and monastic paths need to be seen not as choices in stark opposition, but as alternating modes of life that can enrich and inform one another. More »
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    A Life Outside of Time Paid Member

    Five years go, I traveled to Kyoto to learn about stillness and focus in the Zen temples whose pictures I had long admired. What I quickly learned was that Zen required much more commitment and rigor than the postcards could suggest: dilettantes need not apply. Returning to California, I stumbled, without meaning to, upon a small Benedictine hermitage high above the sea in Big Sur. There, a few hours away from my home, I found much of the spaciousness I had gone halfway around the world to find. More »
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    Himalayan Intrigue Paid Member

    On June 17, 1992, a seven-year-old nomad boy from the steppes of eastern Tibet was installed as one of Central Asia's great religious hierarchs. The child, Ugyen Thinley, was recognized as the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa. His predecessors—the Guru Lamas of Kublai Khan and successive Mongol Chinese Emperors—had been virtual rulers of Tibet before the Dalai Lamas. Princes of an immensely wealthy theocratic establishment, they were buddhas in the guise of sacred magicians, high priests, and god-kings. The recognition of the last Karmapa was greeted with exultation and delight, rejoicing and relief—in Tibet, across the Himalayas, among Tibetan communities in exile, and by devotees of the Karmapa throughout the world. The ceremony itself was attended by thousands of Tibetans. More »
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    The Science of Compassion Paid Member

    I exit the subway to my quiet Brooklyn neighborhood and there he is again, wearing a ragged T-shirt, torn jeans, and dirty sneakers, sweeping the subway steps with an old broom. He looks at me pleadingly. Feeling generous, I reach into my pocket for a coin but find only crumpled bills. Too much, I think. Mumbling a quick "Sorry," I avoid his eyes and hurry on past. More »